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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Relations of the Byzantine Empire with the Bulgarians and Magyars 


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In 923 or 924 the famous interview between Romanus Lecapenus and Simeon took place under the walls of Constantinople. The Emperor, who arrived first, came from his imperial yacht and Simeon from the land. The two monarchs greeted each other and conversed; Romanus' speech has been preserved. Some sort of truce was arranged, with conditions comparatively not too harsh, though Romanus had to pay a yearly tribute to Simeon. Simeon, however, was now compelled to retreat from Constantinople because he anticipated great danger from the newly formed Serbian kingdom, which was carrying on negotiations with the Byzantine Empire, and also because he had not attained satisfactory results in his negotiations with the Arabs. He later began to organize a new campaign against Constantinople, but he died in the midst of his preparations (927).

In the time of Simeon Bulgarian territory expanded enormously. It extended from the shores of the Black Sea to the Adriatic coast, and from the lower Danube to central Thrace and Macedonia, as far as Thessalonica. For these achievements, Simeon's name is significant for the first attempt to replace Greek domination in the Balkan peninsula by Slavonic supremacy.

Simeon was succeeded by the meek Peter, who by his marriage became related to the Byzantine Emperor. The peace treaty that was signed by the Empire recognized his royal title, as well as the Bulgarian patriarchate established by Simeon. This peace lasted for some forty years. After the long succession of brilliant Bulgar victories, the terms of this peace, very satisfactory to Byzantium, scarcely disguised the fact that actually Bulgaria had collapsed. This treaty represented a real success of wise and energetic policy on the part of Romanus Lecapenus. Great Bulgaria of Simeon's time was torn asunder by internal strife under Peter. In connection with the collapse of the political might of Bulgaria, the Magyars and the Patzinaks invaded Thrace in 934 and penetrated as far as Constantinople. In 943 they reappeared in Thrace. Romanus Lecapenus concluded with them a five years peace, which was renewed after his fall and lasted throughout the reign of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Later, in the second half of the tenth century, the Magyars invaded the Balkan peninsula several times. The decline of Bulgaria's strength was very advantageous for the Byzantine Empire. Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimisces continued to struggle persistently with the Bulgarians, and were aided by the Russian Prince Sviatoslav at the invitation of Nicephorus Phocas. When the success of Russian arms in Bulgaria brought Sviatoslav to the very borders of the Empire, however, the Emperor became greatly disturbed, and with reason, because the Russian troops later advanced so far on Byzantine territory that an early Russian chronicler reports that Sviatoslav had almost reached the walls of Tzargrad (Constantinople). John Tzimisces directed his forces against the Russians under the pretext of defending Bulgaria from the onslaught of the new conquerors. He defeated Sviatoslav, conquered all of Eastern Bulgaria, and captured the entire Bulgarian dynasty. The annexation of eastern Bulgaria was thus definitely completed in the time of John Tzimisces.

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